2022 Alpine Classic Ride — 250km
Riding with passion. Descending with care.
Alpine classic! One of the most breathtaking and challenging loop rides in Australia with many ride options to suit all levels of cycling experience. I signed up for the second hardest option, “ACE ride”, 250km distance with over 4,800m elevation over two iconic mountains in regional Victoria. From 3 months of training my fitness, experimenting with nutrition, forming the right mindset for the battle of thoughts and filling my soul full of vigor and triumph to ride well, I am set up for a ride of a lifetime!
It’s the morning of the event. Did the alarm really go off if you’re already awake… I woke up at 2:10am and felt it was too late to fall back asleep so I just continued to lay down, anticipating the alarm buzz at 2:50am. I checked again, 2:45am. Snoozing the last 5 minutes now is too risky and I will probably miss the alarm. Out of bed, brush my teeth with half opened eyes. I wanted to relieve my bowels but it’s so early, my body was not even functioning yet… Guess I have to wait…
3:00am. It’s time for breakfast… What? Absolutely no interest in food at this moment but it is required. Oatmeal with spirulina powder, almonds, soy milk and hot water. I would be keen to eat this any other time, but my appetite hasn’t woken up, nor my senses or any signals of hunger. The first spoon was so distasteful. Chewing with no enjoyment or satisfaction of eating. After a few reluctant spoons of oatmeal, my taste buds can bear the food and I slowly consume my breakfast.
Why the early breakfast? The event has two start times, 4am or 6am and with the weather being 32 degrees today, the 4am start will benefit a cooler start. As much as I love my sleep and reluctant to start early, it was the better option to finish at a reasonable time and maximize the cool morning.
My nutrition for the ride will be 10 rice cakes, 4 tablets of electrolytes, 4 capsules of EAAs, 1 banana and one gel plus food at the rest stops. I packed 6 rice cakes into my top tube bag which made it easier on my lower bag and the bulkness of the back pockets. Much more comfortable to ride with less weight on me.
Breakfast finished, kitted up, grabbed my rice cakes from the fridge, bottles already topped up from last night. 3:20am, I wandered my way to the car in the dark with my bike packed in and thankfully only needed to drive 10 minutes to the event carpark from the accommodation. You know it’s still early when there’s a mob of kangaroos grazing on the grass sidewalk and hopping around the street! A little bit of a shock to the system as I slowly drive past them.
3:30am I set up my bike, stock up my pockets and roll to the start line with 10 minutes to spare and meet my riding buddy for the epic ride. Streets are dark but pulsing with lit up red flashing lights and white front lights. Riders swarming in from all different roads, converging to the start road. The energy level is now lifting with sparks of laughter, people taking photos, hi-fives and a whole lot of nerves bursting. We’re a crazy bunch of people… Doing a 250km ride (also 200km or 320km!) in pitch darkness at 4am!
Hyped up, we set off into a 25km false flat from Bright to Harrietville where the first climb begins, Mt. Hotham. A 30km climb that can be broken down into 3 sections. The first 10km has a few hard kicks which will definitely wake up the legs and demand effort. The second half has a few descents and lower gradients and the last 10km has a couple of hefty punches as you grind your way to the summit, twisting up and up and up…
It’s 5:00am and we’re climbing up a mountain in the dark with stars still out and scattered flashing lights beaming up the road. It was silent during the first section. No sound of birds chirping or singing at this time. Just a light breeze sweeping the leaves off the tree. The noise of our cranks and chain rotating seamlessly. The sound of the road surface and tires are contacting.
I was not feeling it at all during the first 15km of the climb. Groggy, tired, my bottom already getting sore spots and I needed to relieve my bowels… which is about the time I usually wake up and go. Great…
Now 1h30m into the ride and it’s time for my first rice cake but my stomach is not ready to digest… My rice cakes are so tasty with the creamy coconut rice, crunchy cacao nibs, a hint of sweetness with maple syrup and a pinch of salt to balance everything. Not as appetizing when eating in the dark and when your stomach is not awake yet.
I realized my circadian rhythm hadn’t sent the right signal to wake my body until 6:30am when the night sky was transitioning to a warming sunrise that I began to feel alive and refreshed. I needed the sunlight to brighten up the day and activate my energy! It was an epic moment when riding along the ridge of the mountain, one side blasting with the vibrant warm sunrise into my eyes and the other side extending with vast mountainous landscape where my eyes traveled along the orange-colored mountain tops. It was the perfect time to see the wonderful landscape of the high country and Alpine region.
The last 2km of Mt Hotham was a hardcore summit with 8.8% average graidents as you see the road wind up without any respite. With a conserative effort and a calm mind, I rode well within my zone to make sure I didn’t push too hard and pay for it later. The air was crisp at the top, the blue sky was clear and the day had just begun!
53km in, 3h35m of riding. One mountain down. No rest at the summit as we stream (not scream) down the mountain, regaining energy again and descending with care. It’s quite a long stretch to the first rest stop, Dinner Plain. 13km descent with a few rolling hills.
Finally, a toilet break as we arrive at Dinner Plain! I felt so light and refreshed after. Two raisin buns and a banana to replenish the energy and a light stretch of the lower back and legs. Bottles topped up again. The break provided a boost of confidence to continue to ride.
Next stop is Omeo, 44km of fairly flat roads through the green fields and farmlands with minimal tree coverage. The sun was now shining bright and beaming down, raising the temperature. With just my riding friend and a lone rider we met on the way, we took rolling turns to keep the pace going and reach the next rest stop quicker.
110km, 5h 43m later we’re at Omeo for another break. Feeling semi-depleted at this point from the temperature and distance. So, it was time to fuel up again with a nice vegetable roll, another banana, an EAAs capsule and a rice cake. My body began to bounce back with vitality and my passion to ride lifted high again!
Roll on to the next check point! 40km to the bottom of Falls creek. A short climb out of Omeo where the landscape opens up once more, smooth roads and a wide blue sky. What a day to ride! Half way through, the roads became narrow, zig-zagging and hugging the mountain on one side whilst the other side engulfed with untouched tree ranges. You can truly admire and experience the alpine environment as you make your way towards the next mountain. At this point, the ride slowly saps your energy levels as you endlessly follow the ever turning roads towards the bottom of Falls creek.
After 150km, 7h40m of riding, the unforgiving and dreaded 30km climb awaits you! The back of Falls Creek. It is tough at the beginning, middle and end. There’s no escape here. The first 500m is 13% average gradients followed by another 500m of 10% average gradients and if that’s not extremely hard enough, the next 5.5km is 8.5% average gradients. My riding buddy was cracking as we approached the back of Falls Creek. Tired… Arms, neck, back and shoulder were sore. Heavy legs. Not an ideal condition to be in… I, on the other hand, was in better condition without sore body parts and still capable of putting out efforts. This climb either breaks you and makes you. It pushes your limitations and boundaries. The battle in the mind is just as hard as the climb up. It will break you piece by piece mentally. The fight is long and continuous. The mental fatigue starts to grasp you in addition to the temperature now reaching 30 degrees. It’s a realm of suffering in the mind, body and soul!
A water stop was in sight after 5km. I rest, eat a banana, pour water on my head, back and face. Renewed and revived! I ride off! My legs strengthened up, my mind refocused and my spirit flowing out to lead me confidently and triumphantly up the climb. Every five minutes I take one of my bottles to squeeze some water on my back, head and face to cool me down, maintain my body temperature and reduce overheating but most importantly, my perceived exertion stabilized throughout the climb. At first, a few riders we’re passing me but then I actually started creeping past other riders. Riders seemed to be feeling the effects from the hot weather by needing to take a break not overheating or slowing down to keep their heart rate going too high or cramping in the legs and needing to stretch it out on the side of the road. Quite defeating being in those situations…
I rode better than I expected during the climb, staying focused on reaching the summit and persevered the peak temperature. Thank God the last 10km flattens out with the cooler breeze igniting the thrill for speed after finishing the climb at super slow mo pace.
188km in, 10h10m later, I conquered Falls Creek and made it to the rest stop. I plow down 5 slices of watermelon like Friday frenzy sales, devour another raisin bun and top it off with my rice cake. Boom! Reloaded to ride again. I didn’t stay too long knowing there’s a 30km descent now. A rewarding and joyful journey down Falls creek, turning smoothly and cautiously, withholding bursts of power to stay safe.
45 minutes later, I finished the chilled out descent and had a short stop at Mt. Beauty before heading up Tawonga Gap, a 7.53km climb with 6.3% average gradients. 222km, 11h30m into the ride, I start the last climb of the ride! The numerous high pinches of gradients were like piercing daggers to my legs combined with the radiant heat maiming my energy. I endured it, I faced the roads fearlessly and believed I could finish strong. My steady progression was enough to pass other riders. A small encouragement to boost their state as I rode by. Every so often, I pedal standing up to change up my position, apply a touch more power and speed up. My body was still fighting strong with only a minor lower back shoulder soreness.
The scorching sun was still out. However, the tree shades along the roads kept it a little cooler. I played a game, where I would try to ride quickly to the next shading area and then ride slowly in the shade. Just like on Falls creek, every 10 minutes I squeezed water from my bottle onto my back, head and face to remain steady on my effort and not overheat.
After an unending 41 minutes ascending, the top was visible with a large inflatable arch. I finished completed not depleted! It’s done! No more climbing! Just the descend back to the Bright. I enthusiastically flew down the Tawonga Gap with almost near perfect turns which I was very surprised to do still. 13km left. Still a fair way out after descending but it’s flat roads to the end. My energy unleashed and unraveled, empowered me to get into the drops and TT home! Adrenaline spiked. Target set. Powered up. It’s all in now baby! I got into my flow state where I felt like I had wings on me, giving so effortless speed. Flying and soaring past everything!
I see the “5km Bright” sign. The end is near. Zoned in and detaching all limits now. Freedom is so close. I ride with passion and tenacity to town. My unfaltering bike was brilliant with no mechanical issues or punctures. My redemptive body outlasted in the elements. My steadfast mind encouraged me to accomplish the ride. My daring spirit propelled me forward optimistically. 12h 42m, 250km, 4,877m elevation. Alpine Classic 250km ride is done.
- 10 × rice cakes
- 6 × bananas
- 2.5 × raisin buns
- 1 × vegetable sandwich
- 5 × watermelon slices
- 4 × bottles of electrolytes
Readiness score: 68. Off balance?
Sleep score: 53…
Total sleep 3h 50m
Resting HR: 42 bpm
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I love sharing my experiences of cycling and hope you enjoy my journey.